Before his team's showdown against the Bulls last Saturday in
Chicago, Rockets forward Charles Barkley was talking about his
plan to run for governor of Alabama in 2002. But it wasn't until
after the Bulls' 110-86 pasting that Barkley really sounded like
a politician. "That game wasn't a fair assessment," he said of
how the teams matched up. "We ran out of gas in the second
half." O.K., Chuck. Granted the Rockets were playing their
fourth road game in five nights, two more than the Bulls had
played over the same span. But a 24-point blowout in the most
hotly anticipated game of the season? "We'll play better on
Sunday," Barkley said, referring to the rematch this weekend in
Houston. True, Barkley probably won't shoot 2 of 11 again. Nor
will teammate Clyde Drexler go 3 of 11, even with Scottie Pippen
covering him like lint on a sour ball. But unless the Rockets
start getting more than splinters from their bench (the Bulls
reserves outscored Houston's 44-24), they have no hope of
dethroning Chicago....At week's end the Trail Blazers were
fourth in the league in rebounding, but they didn't have a
player in the top 30 of the individual rankings....If Georgetown
grads Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo are the
Eastern Conference centers at the All-Star game, shouldn't John
Thompson get to be the team's coach?...Despite making the
playoffs just twice since 1985-86, the Kings have sold out 474
straight home games, the longest such streak currently in the
NBA. Either Sacramento has the league's most loyal fans or its
worst nightlife....Talk about bad timing. With his contract up
after this season, Utah guard Jeff Hornacek is shooting just
28.9% from beyond the arc, his lowest percentage since he was a
rookie in '86-87....Rockets forward Mario Elie denies giving
Robert Horry, his former teammate, the idea to throw that towel
in Phoenix coach Danny Ainge's face. In the closing seconds of a
Suns' 1994 playoff loss to Houston, a piqued Ainge fired an
inbounds pass into Elie's mug. "I haven't forgotten that," Elie
says. "But that's not why Robert did it. He was just frustrated
with his situation there."...Jason Kidd's new teammates in
Phoenix are calling him Wash, a reference to Dallas coach Jim
Cleamons's insistence that the Kidd-for-Sam Cassell portion of
the recent Mavericks-Suns blockbuster was a swap of
equals....Jermaine O'Neal, the Blazers' promising 18-year-old
rookie, has gotten a nickname from his teammates too: Diaper
Rash....After talking with family members, Heat forward P.J.
Brown has decided to stop ripping fellow Louisiana Tech alum
Karl Malone. Now, Miami coach Pat Riley is hoping Brown's family
tells him to hit some open jumpers....Celtics 6'8" rookie
Antoine Walker has played all five positions. Is he that
versatile, or is Boston that bad?...He doesn't get the publicity
of Allen Iverson or Stephon Marbury, but the Bucks' Ray Allen is
leading all rookie guards in shooting from the field (44.5%) and
from beyond the stripe (41.4%) and is second from the line
(78.5%)....Coach Dick Motta, after his Nuggets handed the
Celtics their first road win of the season: "We're like the
country doctor. We make everyone healthy. We even make house
calls."...After 78 career games Nets center Yinka Dare got his
first assist in a 123-106 loss to Toronto last Saturday. Only
11,682 to go to catch John Stockton.

COLOR PHOTO: CARL SISSAC Unlike Jordan (23), the road-weary Rockets could not rise to the occasion. [Michael Jordan] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH [Shaquille O'Neal] COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW MCCLOSKEY [Radio]

PERSONAL FILE

Last week, Lakers center-rapper Shaquille O'Neal and the several
other performers on "Stomp," a track from Quincy Jones's Q's
Jook Joint, earned a Grammy nomination for best R&B group vocal.
Here are Shaq's five favorite rap singles.

1 How High?--Method Man and Redman
2 Protect Ya Neck--Wu-Tang Clan
3 Bow Down--Westside Connection
4 One More Chance--Notorious B.I.G.
5 Been There Done That--Dr. Dre

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)